Top 10 South Asian Entrepreneurs
Luke Roopra, CEOAzim Makanojiya, CEOShazi Visram, CEO and FounderGopi Kandukuri, CEOKevin Paul, CEODevan R. Capur, CEOSujay Jhaveri, CEODr. Suresh Kumar, CEOSony George, CEOR. Sukumar, CEO and President
2010 Revenue: $12.7 million
Three-year growth: 8,648%
Though 38-year-old Lukhbir (Luke) Roopra was born in Hertfordshire, UK, his Indian roots have played a major role in is life as a businessman. He credits his parents, both of Indian heritage, with instilling a good work ethic in him from a young age. "In business, what satisfies me most now is when a client really sees that we are truly looking out for their interest and their success," he says. "It really works and is rooted in my background." He plans to pass these values on to his children. "When the kids get in their teens, we plan to make a trip to Asia so they can experience the history," he adds.
2010 Revenue: $6.9 million
Three-Year Growth: 6,199%
Watching his parents work hard was both influential and motivating for the WBPromotions head, Azim Makanojiya. He says he learned to work hard from his Southeast Asian parents, who came to America for a better life, but also learned what he didn't want to do. "[Watching my parents] has motivated me to start my own business at an early age so I can spend time with my future family and provide them with comfortable life," he says.
New York City
2010 Revenue: $13.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 3,207%
Shazi Visram is the daughter of a Tanzanian man and Pakistani mother; a combination that she says enriched her childhood and her future in business. She grew up in Birmingham, Ala. and watched her parents—with no prior experience—successfully run a hotel. "My parents worked very hard, and had that pride that comes from working for yourself, being your own boss, and then finding ways to give back. I was deeply influenced by that," adds Visram, who founded healthy baby food company HappyBaby.
2010 Revenue: $7.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,948%
Heading up an IT staffing company like Saxon-Global is no easy feat. Gopi Kandukuri says running a company was just something ingrained in his DNA. "From my childhood days, I was very passionate about business and want to do something on my own," he says. "I was definitely influenced by several factors which made my determination strong and motivated to start my business."
2010 Revenue: $16.2 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,795%
It wasn't his Indian heritage that influenced him as much as his childhood—which was filled with examples of his love of business. "My brother and I even ran a business selling CDs out of our parents basement," recalls Kevin Paul, who founded industrial supply company KPaul. "When I joined the Army straight out of high school, it opened doors and showed me the potential for a new business opportunity."
2010 Revenue: $7.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 2,659%
Born in India, Devan R. Capur says his childhood values have stayed with him. "When I was 16, my classmate and I launched a free clinic in the slums of Calcutta," he says. "This was my first start-up. It transformed my outlook, my dreams and inspired me to do more."
New York City
2010 Revenue: $3.7 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,952%
Though he is of Indian heritage, Sujay Jhaveri was born and raised in Hong Kong, while educated in Britain and the U.S. "My father started his own business and I think his experience of moving from humble beginnings in India to successfully raising a family in Hong Kong instilled a feeling of confidence in me," he says. "Becoming an entrepreneur, while difficult and full of risks, can be rewarding on multiple levels." His company, MyDailyMoment is a lifestyle website, that provides tips and stories on everything from cooking to parenting.
2010 Revenue: $2.3 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,933%
Coming to the U.S. when he was 27 years old, Dr. Suresh Kumar has a deeply rooted connection to his heritage in India. "Growing up in the highly competitive environment in India taught me to be very comfortable with competition and understand the concept of delayed gratification," he says. "Financial prudence and taking calculated risks as opportunities came up to get ahead in life were key values that my Indian culture taught me." He now heads sustainability company Green Earth.
2010 Revenue: $4.1 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,897%
Born in East India (Trivandrum, Kerala specifically), Sony George was the son of two engineers and credits the competitive environments of his childhood as the backbone of his entrepreneurial spirit. "I learned the basics of leadership during my undergrad years organizing many activities ranging from running snack bars to large community events," says George, who now runs MindPetal. "These were especially challenging; with little or no budget you had to rely on your ability to inspire and work with people. All this meant that hard work, strong relationships, organizing skills, and a bit of God’s grace were the qualities that I came to rely on in life."
Optimal Strategix Group
2010 Revenue: $6.5 million
Three-Year Growth: 1,878%
Coming from a large Indian family, R. Sukumar recalls a modest childhood. His father was an educator, which has provided a guiding light for him. He says it was this emphasis on learning that led him to become a highly-educated businessman; he now holds a MBA and Ph. D in Marketing and Business Administration. He currently heads Optimal Strategix Group, which is a marketing consulting firm.